Heimplanet – Interview

People think of product ideas all the time–those million-dollar ideas that are going to change one particular market or another. But then maybe you’ll be watching late-night infomercials or leafing through a magazine to find that someone has already created your product. Or other times you just let it go because the risks are too high and you’re not quite sure where to start. But when good products get made, we’re glad they did.

That’s sort of what happened with The Cave tent from HEIMPLANET. The founders went on a camping trip, came up with an awesome idea and returned home to jobs they hated. But their product hadn’t yet been made by anyone else and they couldn’t get the idea out of their heads, so they had to take the leap and get to work. They now have a great product, years after the idea was born, and lots of business lessons under their belts. We talked with them about where good ideas start, how to enjoy the journey, finding that place you feel at home, the never-ending business cycle, and unconventional product testing. Be sure to check out the videos included below for demos on the product and more details on how they made it happen. For more, check out http://www.heimplanet.com/

Why did you want to start your own business, especially one that you didn’t have specific background in already?

The initial idea of an innovative tent design was born during a surf trip along the Portuguese cost line in 2003. We traveled from spot to spot and therefore had to set up our tent several times. After a very impressive day at Praia Grande we arrived quite late on our spot where we wanted to stay that night. It was already getting dark and it started raining while we were trying to pitch our tent – we hated it. That was when we started to talk about ideas on how to improve a tent. We did not take it really serious in that situation, we were just having fun thinking about a tent from the future.

It was 2008 when we decided to take it serious and let this idea become reality. We were both a bit frustrated with our job situations and not willing to spend the next 30 years like that. That’s when we decided to do our own thing. We were probably a bit naive and expected it to be much easier to develop our own product – but we definitely learned our lesson.

In one of your videos, you say the most important thing you learned was to keep going. At those points where you wanted to give up, what helped you keep going? 

When we decided to really go for it and make our idea become reality, it was the most motivating situation I experienced so far, we were extremely dedicated and excited. This motivation helped us to be courageous enough to quit our jobs to apply for funding and to work day and night for a long time.

Our plan was to finish the development in the beginning of 2010 and then start marketing our product. At first everything worked out fine. Yes, of course it was a lot of work and we had to solve a lot of problems, but by the end of 2009 we had a prototype. We were very excited and confident – that was when things started to get really difficult.

We realized that our design would not work for production, that we would run out of money and that we would have to make some serious changes to our development team. It came all back to the two of us and every day became a challenge for the next year. During this time we often got to a point where we did not know how to keep going, but somehow we always found a way to motivate us again, stay calm and search for a solution. We talked to a lot of founders during that time and realized everybody experienced a time like that. That’s the most important time while founding a business, that’s when you decide to keep on walking or surrender.

What does Heim mean? Why the change from bornintents to HeimPlanet? 

During our development project we did a lot of research about the architect, designer and futurist Buckminster Fuller, who had great impact on the field of geodesic domes, a principle that we use for the inflatable structure of our tents. During this research we learned a lot, not just about his work but also about his philosophy, which was a great inspiration for us. He was an amazing character and his ideas completely blow you away sometimes. One day we were talking about some of his ideas and came up with this picture of carrying your house around the world. That was how the idea for our name, HEIMPLANET was born. In the German language there is a word that exists just in German: Heimat. It describes the place you feel at home, the place where you belong, the place you are dedicated to, the place that makes you feel like its all going to be all right somehow no matter what. We liked the idea of taking some of that around our planet while traveling. HEIM-PLANET

Since launching The Cave tent, how has the response been? 

The feedback was amazing. We received a lot of emails from around the world, got featured on a lot of blogs and magazines. We received a couple of design awards and a lot of people tell us how much they love the idea. We are very pleased with the feedback and would have never expected that.

But the best feedback – which is the most important for us – is the feedback from our customers. To realize they are happy with our product and that they would buy it again gives us a great confidence to be on the right track.

What have you found to be most difficult for your young business, developing the product or getting the word out about it? 

Both parts are not easy and never come to a real end I guess. Even if you have a great performing product, you have to make sure that its calculation works as well, your quality is stable or  – even better – improves over time.

And if all this works, you will find yourself in a market where a lot of brands compete. Most of them have more experience and usually much bigger budgets than we do. So we have to be creative to make sure people get to know us and are able see what the tent from the future looks like.

Talk a little bit about the Caveaway 2012 project. How did that come about and what were you hoping to accomplish with it? 

A lot of people supported us during our project. We tried to come up with an idea to say thank you, that’s how the CaveAway idea was born. We decided to send our tent The Cave from one person to another and give them one weekend to experience the result of our project. At the same time it was a great way to test the durability of our design; if 16 people who never used this tent before take it on a tour for a weekend you learn a lot about your own product through their feedback. We were very happy when it arrived back in our office after a whole summer on tour, still in perfect condition.

What’s your favorite place you’ve taken The Cave? Why?

The first time we took The Cave for a serious trip, we had to take it back to Portugal, where the idea was once born. That was a very special and good experience. – Especially because it was the first time in the water after a long period of working really hard.

The most favorite set up we found since then was that place in north of Spain, where we set up The Cave next to the new family member, The Wedge, while visiting a team of filmmakers who we support in realizing a great documentary about the European surf culture – www.oldyoungsea.com.

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